We have miles to go before we can even begin to conclude that justice is being delivered
Numbers cannot be argued against: According to statistics collected from Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, the number of reported rapes has risen from 940 in 2010 to 1855 in 2019, nearly doubling within a decade. However, what is truly alarming is the number of these perpetrators who continue to roam free.
Although there have been admirable efforts which contributed to the legal fight against sexual violence, such as banning the “two finger test” previously used to verify rape, we have miles to go before we can even begin to conclude that justice is being delivered. For one, there still remains a striking absence of legislation and criminalization when it comes to marital rape and the rape of men.
Even where legal recourse is present, conviction rates are abysmal. The Women and Children Repression Prevention tribunal has reported that, among five districts, a mere 3% of cases concerning violence against women and children led to a sentence.
Delays in medical testing and faulty investigations are among the primary reasons that sexual violence cases are disrupted, and eventually not seen through to the end.
In addition, the socio-cultural taboo surrounding rape not only acts as a deterrent prior to filing cases, victims have to face continued harassment in various legal stages as well. This is a problem most commonly confronted in lower courts.
The judiciary must ensure proper cooperation and coordination to solve this problem. Furthermore, awareness is needed regarding the legal options available to victims, so that they can speak up without fear of repercussions.
We have more awareness now than ever before, courtesy of numerous activist organizations and awareness campaigns, but as long as this culture of impunity surrounding the conviction of sex offenders remains prevalent, constructive and lasting progress will be a far cry.